The Type Of Bitters Every Home Bar Needs, According To An Expert

If you're putting together a home bar, you're going to want to include a bottle of bitters along with your choice of liquors. Bitters are powerfully-flavored little bottles of blended botanicals that are the key ingredient to many classic cocktails. They're highly aromatic with a pronounced acerbic bite: Few signature drink recipes call for more than just a few drops of bitters. Of all the bitter options out there, which are the best to have around? We asked Lex Madden, bar manager at Colorado's Point Easy Denver restaurant located in the historic Whittier neighborhood.

"Angostura or other similar aromatic bitters will give you the ability to make some of your favorite classic cocktails at home — Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and a variety of Tiki drinks," Madden said. "Also, I love having a few seasonal flavoring bitters on my home bar — for summer, I have lavender, lemon, and moroccan spice bitters." Angostura is possibly the best-known brand of bitters available. The blend of roots, bark, herbs, and spices started life as a medical tonic concocted by a German surgeon in 1824 and is still being produced in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Exploring lesser-known brands of bitter

We asked Madden if she had a favorite lesser-known brand of bitters. "Check out Riskin's Cocktail Bitters for flavoring bitters," she told us. "He makes a huge variety of highly concentrated flavors that really shine in cocktails. I frequently add a few drops of any of his flavors to a lemonade style cocktail to dress it up and make it feel more special when I serve drinks to guests at home." Madden isn't kidding: In addition to his own take on aromatic bitters, Riskin makes an absolute slew of tinctures, featuring flavors from grapefruit to horseradish. The company offers sixteen different types to count.

Although the recipe for Angostura's aromatic bitters is a proprietary and closely-guarded secret, there are many competing brands available. Even if you don't take Lex Madden's expert advice, adopting her enthusiastic and open-minded attitude towards bitters as a versatile flavoring agent will help you find your favorite brand.